Global Handwashing Day, observed annually on October 15, was observed in the city by World Vision India which began a campaign on Tuesday to create awareness among school students and slum dwellers.

The United Nations has estimated that the simple action of washing the hands with soap in running water can reduce the rate of morality from these diseases by almost 50 per cent.

Imbibing this act as a habit among children and ensuring that they washed hands before eating and after using the toilet was projected to save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, research suggests.

According to K. Vetriselvan John, Programme Manager of World Vision India, the campaign will cover 12,000 children in 15 Corporation, Government and private schools besides those residing in urban slums during the course of this week.

Demonstrations will be organised in all these schools on effective hand-washing with soap, an act that will not take more than 15 seconds, followed by a thorough rinsing in running water.

He said that people can spread bacteria by touching one others’ hand, hair, nose, and face. Hands that have been in contact with human or animal faeces, and contaminated food or water can transport virus and parasites. Hand washing with soap works by interrupting the transmission of disease.

The first Global Handwashing Day took place on October 15, 2008, the date appointed by the United Nations after designating 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation. Pneumonia, an acute respiratory infection, is among the major causes for mortality among children under five years, claiming the lives of an estimated 1.8 million children annually.

Diarrhoea and pneumonia alone account for almost 3.5 million child deaths globally per year.